Better Know A Micro-Party: Direct Democracy

Another of the new ones.

Name: Direct Democracy Ireland
Founded: 2010
Leader: Raymond Whitehead
Representation: None
Politically: Left
Associated With: Pro-Political Reform, Pro-Environment
Notable Members: None
Online: http://www.directdemocracyireland.org/

History

Founded earlier this year by photographer (slash restaurateur, slash poet) Raymond Whitehead, DDI is based of that mans experiences in Switzerland where they practice a bit of the Direct Democracy idea (see below). They have spent the last six months trying to boost their public profile and select candidates for the upcoming general election.

Electoral Record

Not Applicable.

What They’ve Been Doing Lately

Holding meetings (check out the founders presentation here), trying to raise money (unsuccessfully, it would appear from their website where they have collected just €52 as of the posting date), and just doing anything they can to get into the picture, nationally.

What They’ll Do In The Future

DDI’s whole deal is about implementing a direct democracy system in Ireland. Simply put, a system where the people have the power to introduce referenda on certain issues, to recall Ministers and the like, if they can get a petition with enough signatures (a certain percentage of the population). As the site points out, the orignal Saorstat Eireann constitution of 1922 had similar articles, but these were removed in 1937.

DDI call for the introduction of this system, which would of course necessitate a referendum, as soon as possible.

Chances In The Next Election

DDI is contesting three constituencies. Whitehead is standing in Dun Laoghaire, with a Mr Noel Walsh in Carlow/Kilkenny and a Mr Vincent Kennedy in Wexford.

It’s going to be tough. Whitehead will have to compete with the ULA/PBP/SWP candidate of Richard Boyd Barrett for the non-major party votes and the other two have never been areas that have been inclined to go with Independents. I can’t see them winning any seats, barring a major fluke. Regardless, they wouldn’t have the Dail presence to effect anything even if they won all three races. Of course, they may end up running more candidates, they have confirmed three as of this posting date.

NFBs View

Direct Democracy is the high ideal of democratic theory but I object to parts of it. Basically, the worst case scenario is that it grinds government to a halt as politicians would be unable to introduce any legislation that is even remotely unpopular. It’s part of th reason that nations have set terms – so that politicians can govern without the fear that they’ll be turfed out for slightly raising taxes or voting in support of a controversial bill or whatever. Populism is fine, but in DDI’s world, this extreme form would invariably end up impeding the work of government. “The mob” isn’t going to vote for a tax hike, or for social welfare to be cut or for increased aid to Africa or for anything other than stuff that’s good for them.

And of course, even if “the people” were making decisions for the good of the country (rather than themselves individually), the process of passing  law would slow to snails pace. That and referenda aren’t cheap.

That, and I suspect that the idea of direct democracy, and the people who advocate it, would only go so far. That is, it’d be all well and good, until “the people” start disagreeing with Whitehead and co. We’re all populists, unless “the people” aren’t on our side. Cynical but true.

People like Whitehead, as eloquent and sincere as they are, are putting an awful lot of trust into the will of “the people”. The problem being that people are morons when they act as “the people”. Switzerland can get away with it because they’re rich, neutral and have a federal system. I’m not at all convinced that we could. I am interested to see what kind of numbers the DDI candidates can get in an election though. It’ll be a fascinating look at what the country thinks of the idea.

Most Likely To Say: The people should decide everything!

Least Likely To Say: As long as they agree with me!

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